At the conclusion of a quarterly ownership meeting in Dallas, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed with the media a variety of topics. The biggest, obviously, came from Tuesday’s ruling by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the bounty case.
As to the facts, Goodell says that he and Tagliabue came to the same conclusion. But that’s not entirely accurate. Tagliabue found only that there was enough evidence to support Goodell’s factual determinations; the former Commissioner didn’t make his own decisions as to the facts.
And as to the fairly important factual questions associated the $10,000 bounty offer made by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Tagliabue concluded there is no evidence that tough talk became action.
“We came to the same conclusion as far as the facts were concerned,” Goodell nevertheless said. “Clearly, there was a bounty program in place for three years, despite the denials. Clearly this is something that is considered conduct detrimental. Where I think Commissioner Tagliabue and I disagree is on the fact of discipline. I think when there’s conduct detrimental, there should be associated discipline with that. And that’s where we disagree. But I respect his decision and we’re moving on.”
Goodell is moving on without any inclination to change his approach to player discipline, politely dismissing Tagliabue’s ruling as “non-precedential,” which means that Goodell doesn’t believe he is bound by the ruling in future cases. Tagliabue likely would disagree, based on the portion of his ruling in which he explains that his decision is guided by the “rules of the shop.” Tagliabue would say that his decision necessarily has become subsumed within those rules.
Still, in future cases of this nature (if/when there are any), Goodell made it clear that he will hold responsible not only coaches and management but also players.
“My personal view is I hold everyone responsible,” Goodell said. “We have to have a personal responsibility here. And player health and safety is an important issue in this league, and it’s gonna take everyone. We’re all gonna have to contribute to that, whether you’re a Commissioner, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re a player. And we all have to be held accountable for it. So I fundamentally disagree that this is something that lies just with coaches and management. I think that as you I know I took some very significant steps with respect to management and coaches. I do think that that’s important, and I do think their leadership position needs to be considered. But I also believe these players were in leadership positions also.”
Bottom line? The man in the ultimate NFL leadership position plans to change nothing about the way he leads, despite the outcome of the bounty case and the subtle rebuke he received from his predecessor regarding the way that a Commissioner should tackle difficult issues that have lingered for years before suddenly becoming problems.